Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 18, 2014

Seeing something about school shootings on Yik Yak and saying something

Filed under: Education,Social Media — by Christopher Bellavita on November 18, 2014

“Just saw a sketchy looking dude load some assault rifles into his car on the walk to campus, so that’s chill.”


Last week a friend sat waiting at the airport for her flight. To pass the time she checked out some of the posts on Yik Yak.

Her son attends a university on the other side of the country, and sometimes she skims the Yik Yak posts to see what’s happening on her son’s campus. It’s a way to get a sense of the anonymous culture college marketing departments don’t talk about much. Or at all.

“Hey that’s not even something to joke about. This better be a joke.”

When my friend saw the assault rifle post, her first thought was it’s a prank. She looked at more of the replies:

“That’s not funny. Someone should call public safety.”

“Call the cops. Don’t play around with this.”

She looked at a few posts on other topics, but her mind would not let go of the image of a “sketchy dude” putting weapons in his car.

She sent a copy of the text to her husband.

“I just saw this on Yik Yak. It’s 30 minutes old. Probably nothing. I’m at the airport. Do you have contact information for the university police? Again, it’s probably nothing.”

“OK everybody, don’t get your panties in a bunch. There’s nothing illegal about putting rifles in your car. Lighten up.”

A few more minutes went by. No word from her husband.

“There really probably isn’t anything to this. Just a bad joke. Besides, the police probably monitor Yik Yak. I’m pretty sure they’re on top of it.”

“You can’t joke about this. It’s not funny. I’m down voting you.”

“I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t go to class today. Just stay in my room.”

“Somebody should tell the police.”

My friend thought, “The chances this is real are practically zero. It’s college kids. Besides, I’m hundreds of miles away. I feel helpless.”

She knew she wasn’t helpless.

“I realized I could do something,” she told me. “I used my phone to look up the number for campus security and called them. I just didn’t want to take the chance. I told them I was a parent and told them what I saw on Yik Yak.”

“It’s probably nothing,” I told them, wondering why I kept repeating that.

“Relax everyone. My guess is it’s the ROTC cadets storing their weapons after yesterday’s Veterans Day ceremony.”

“This is scary. How come the cops don’t know about this?”

“Assault what?” asked the person on the other end of my friend’s phone call.

“Assault weapons, assault rifles. Something like that. I don’t recall exactly. It’s probably nothing. Don’t you guys monitor Yik Yak?”

“We don’t approve of Yik Yak,” the person said.

“I don’t approve of it either,” said my friend, “but you know… ‘see something, say something?’ I just saw something on Yik Yak and I’m telling you.”

“OK,” the person responded. “Thanks for letting us know.”

“Is that it?” my friend thought. “They didn’t even ask my name.”

A few minutes later she boarded her plane, feeling surprisingly pleased that she’d acted, rather than waited for someone else to act.

“I knew it was probably nothing. But if it turned out to be real, and I hadn’t done anything,….”

She did not complete her sentence.


Yik Yak is a geo-fenced, micro-blog version of Twitter. It’s a social media (some say an anti-social media) smartphone app that allows people in a geographically constrained area to anonymously communicate with other nearby people. I’m not sure how constrained the area is. I’ve read it’s anywhere from a 1.5 to 10 mile radius.

Yik Yak appears to be intended for use primarily by college students. It blocks anyone from posting if they are near a high school or middle school.

Sometimes the posts are amusing:

– “There is no reason to tailgate me when I’m going 50 in a 35. And those flashing lights on top of your car look ridiculous.”

– “Sister: Where is Nicaragua? Me: Central America. Sister: So like near Kansas? Me: I see poles and body glitter in your future.”

– “FUN FACT: If you take out your intestines and lay them end to end, you will die.”

Other times, the posts are ugly: Racist Posts On Yik Yak Prompt Student Protest At Colgate University

One writer believes Yik Yak is “the most dangerous app I’ve ever seen.”  Another author suggests Why Your College Campus Should Ban Yik Yak.  A third article writes about Yik Yak as A Weapon That Should Be Treated Like One, describing it as a “bulletin board for bomb threats.” (At least two people have been arrested for using the app to make bomb threats. Yik Yak gave law enforcement the names of the people who made both threats.)

The application also has its defenders. Here are some comments in response to the charge that Yik Yak is dangerous:

– “I find your view on Yik Yak very cynical. I hardly ever see hateful yaks, and if I do, they are gone within seconds because people down vote them.”

– “Yik Yak builds strong community and opens up honest discussions. It has the potential for some abuse but overall I think it is a fun, brilliant app.”

–”Anonymity is the only thing we have left to guarantee our first amendment, sad but true. Yeah there will be people that will abuse it, but we have to take the bad with the good in the ideal of freedom.”


My friend’s plane landed a few hours later. When she turned her phone back on she had a voice mail message.

“This is Lieutenant [----] at the [---- ] University Police Department. Please call me when you get this message.”

She called the number and spoke to the police officer. The department checked the Yik Yak post about the assault rifles and, based on the post, conducted a sweep of the entire campus. The city police checked the neighborhood surrounding the campus.

They did not find anything.

Was the post a hoax? An inappropriate attempt at humor? A warning that disrupted a potentially significant event?

It was probably nothing.

Like it always is.

Almost.

September 23, 2014

Six master’s degree theses

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 23, 2014

Here are the titles – and abstracts – of six master’s degree theses recently completed at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.  The theses will be publicly available in 4 to 6 weeks.  If you’re interested in seeing one or more of them, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail.com) and I’ll put you in touch with the author.

Farewell To Arms: A Plan For Evaluating The 2001 Authorization For Use Of Military Force And Its Alternatives

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Over the past 13 years, the AUMF has served as the primary legal foundation for the use of force against terrorist organizations and other counterterrorist operations. Since its passage, threats facing the United States have evolved and new groups have emerged. Yet, Congress has failed to reexamine the statute. This thesis examines whether the AUMF serves as the proper foundation for addressing current terrorist threats or whether an alternative legal tool is more appropriate. … [The] thesis … [analyzes] the evolution of terrorist threats, constitutional concerns, the consequences of altering the legal structure upon which national counterterrorism strategies rely, international legality, and precedent. Ultimately, [the] thesis recommends that Congress sunset the AUMF and implement a tailored approach to force authorization – one that balances constitutional protections and security, while providing a foundation for crafting future force authorizations.

 

Now Is The Time For CVE-2. Updating And Implementing A Revised U.S. National Strategy To Counter Violent Extremism

The United States (U.S.) national strategy countering violent extremism (CVE) has yet to be updated and currently does not provide the necessary national framework to best combat self-radicalization and violent extremism (VE) in the United States. … “What are the necessary and effective components of the national U.S. CVE strategy that best prevent self-radicalization and VE in the United States?” This research examined the concepts and strategies surrounding extremism and self-radicalization in the U.S., the United Kingdom … and Australia. … One .. finding was the identification of overarching elements that, if implemented, would increase the effectiveness and applicability of the U.S. CVE strategy. These elements include: 1) identifying the federal agency in charge of administering the U.S. CVE strategy, 2) developing a more robust and actionable national CVE framework, 3) refocusing the federal government on support and not local engagement of CVE, 4) requiring all CVE related terms be defined in every document, and 5) requiring regular evaluations and updates of the U.S. CVE strategy. ….

 

Opaque Communities: A Framework For Assessing Potential Homeland Security Threats From Voids On The Map

Opaque communities are groups of two or more families or cohabitation partnerships that are inaccessible to non-members, affiliates, or associates either through explicit or implied restriction of member interaction outside of the group. [These communities] confound homeland security situational awareness and integration efforts, generating … threat perceptions that often escalate into governmental interventions and violent confrontations. Opaque groups’ disinclination to interact with the surrounding public stymies governmental situational awareness capabilities necessary for homeland security functions, prompting stakeholders to embrace a default tendency to perceive threat streams emanating from such groups and employ a respective confrontational posture. Concurrently, authorities have repeatedly attributed member’s individual crimes and discreet instances of illicit behavior to the entire community, creating self-imposed barriers to viable alternative investigative and enforcement options. Governmental failures to communicate with and effectively address past incidents involving opaque communities have led to tactical response disasters. Future inabilities to foster contact with such groups could present grave, unforeseen challenges to homeland security and surrounding community resiliency efforts. This thesis explores whether governmental entities [should] adopt a common set of operational assumptions regarding threats emanating from opaque communities and, if so, whether alternative interactional frameworks for integrating such communities into homeland security efforts are available.

 

Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?—The Physical, Economic, Geopolitical, Social And Psychological Factors Of Recovery From Catastrophic Disaster

“Should we continue to build there?” is a question asked after other past disasters; it is especially more poignant as local, state and federal governments deal with pre-disaster mitigation funding and post-disaster emergency management funding issues. The goal of this research [was] to develop a way of answering that question through a better understanding of the social, economic, and cultural problems, and opportunities of rebuilding. As a result, shortcomings in the assumptions of existing response and recovery plans can be identified, and current community planning can consider future catastrophic events. Through pre-identification of physical, social, and political limitations other communities have faced, pro-active land use, response and recovery planning decisions could be implemented that increase the chance that communities can successfully emerge from disaster. This study investigates examples of past catastrophic disasters and the positive and negative experiences as those communities struggled to return to normalcy. The end result of the research is an assessment that identifies the economic, geopolitical, and social factors of recovery following a catastrophic disaster. ….

Immigration Adjudication Reform: The Case For Automation

A bill that has passed the United States Senate, S. 744, proposes a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” (LPI) status and a “path to Citizenship” for an estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the Agency that would be responsible for processing applications for LPI status or other immigration benefits authorized by immigration reform legislation or administrative relief programs introduced by the White House. Current Agency receipts of applications for immigration benefits range between 6 and 7 million per year. Depending on the eligibility criteria for new immigration benefits, Agency receipts could triple. The operational impact of these legislative or executive actions on USCIS could bear significant national security risks. This study evaluates whether the implementation of automated tools would mitigate external operational impacts on USCIS. Two existing automated systems are studied. The Secure Flight system, operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) as utilized in the Joint Reform Effort (JRE) were selected for their complexity, maturity, and similarity to immigration adjudications. This analysis demonstrates that automated tools can improve the quality of immigration adjudications by supporting a comprehensive assessment, including accuracy, timeliness, completeness and validity. Further, automation would improve the Agency’s operational responsiveness when external factors such as policy changes affect workloads. These factors thereby improve national security by supporting the Agency’s mission to uphold the integrity of the immigration system and to prevent and intercept illicit actors from entering or remaining in the United States.

 

Eyes Of The Storm: Can Fusion Centers Play A Crucial Role During The Response Phase Of Natural Disasters Through Collaborative Relationships With Emergency Operations Centers

Through the maturation of the national network of fusion centers, processes, and capabilities originally designed to detect and thwart terrorist attacks are now applied to disaster responses. The fusion process, which involves the synthesis and analysis of streams of data, can create incident specific intelligence. The sharing of this information can enhance the operating picture that is critical to key decision makers and the discipline of emergency management. This thesis examined three case studies of fusion center disaster responses through a collaborative-based analytical framework. The resulting analysis of the case studies identified the crucial role played by fusion centers in responding to disaster events in a collaborative effort with emergency operations centers. This thesis concludes that fusion centers offer the greatest impact through enabling information sharing throughout the response phase. The specific benefits of the sharing of information directly influence executive briefings and the deployment of resources. This thesis also modeled a collaborative response. The research determined that the depth and breadth of these relationships involving cooperative responses must be proportionate to the incident and include a level of redundancy. Through a system design model, over connectivity through efficiency was shown to increase the likelihood of fracturing cooperative relationships.

 

 

September 16, 2014

Social identity theory and homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 16, 2014

What do these people have in common?

- Unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally, and the people who don’t want them in this country.
- People opposing the militarization of police, and the people who don’t believe militarization is all that bad.
- People who don’t mind submitting to TSA searches, and people who think it’s a waste of resources and liberty.
- People who think NSA surveillance is a national abomination, and people who believe if you haven’t done anything wrong you shouldn’t mind government having access to your emails and phone calls.

One answer to the question is they are all members of groups whose behaviors can be explained and predicted more effectively by their identities as members of groups, rather than by trying to understand the behaviors of the individuals in each of those groups.

Social identity theory is the name given to this way of understanding why people do what they do.

Social Identity Theory (SIT) has been around since the 1970s. I learned about it a few years ago from colleagues I teach with. I’m still not sure what I think about it. I wonder about its predictive and operational value.  But I do know that a third to a half of the practitioners who graduate from our program think there’s something to SIT worth paying attention to.

SIT is “a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviors on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another.”

According to an article by Ellemers and Haslam in the Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, the core premise of social identity theory “is that in many social situations people think of themselves and others as group members, rather than as unique individuals. The theory argues that social identity underpins intergroup behavior and sees this as qualitatively distinct from interpersonal behavior…. [The theory] focuses on social context as the key determinant of social perceptions and social behaviors.”

You can read more about SIT here and here. Or you can watch a 40 minute lecture here.

But why would anyone in homeland security want to learn anything about social identity theory?

Two of my colleagues – David Brannan and Anders Strindberg – argue in their book A Practitioner’s Way Forward: Terrorism Analysis that terrorism research has been conducted without much attention to analytical rigor. They believe SIT can help provide that rigor.

They also offer, through the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security, a self-study course titled Understanding Terrorism: A Social Science View on Terrorism. It describes SIT and illustrates — among other things – how it can be used to “provide nuance, depth, and rigor to your studies of religious terrorism.”

There is no cost for the course, but registration is required. You can register at this link: http://www.chds.us/?special/info&pgm=Noncredit.

According to the CHDS website, the course is “available to local, tribal, state and federal U.S. government officials; members of the U.S. military; private-sector homeland security managers; homeland security researchers or educators; and students enrolled in homeland security degree programs.”

August 18, 2014

Hero or Victim: Encouraging Self-Dispatching of Off-Duty Police Officers to Active Shooter Incidents

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on August 18, 2014

Today’s post was written by Matthew Hanley.

Officer Smith receives the call he has been dreading his entire career, an active shooter at the local elementary school.

The 911 dispatcher provides the only description available of the shooter – a white male wearing a black shirt.  Officer Smith arrives in just under 2 minutes.

As he exits the vehicle, he hears a series of shots ring out.  He makes the decision to enter the school alone.  Down the first hallway he encounters the gunman – white male, black shirt, handgun.  He instinctively fires 3 rounds and the suspect falls to the floor.

As Officer Smith approaches the suspect, he recognizes the man as an off-duty police officer.

Shots continue to ring out in the gymnasium.

———————————————

This is precisely the scenario that could play out across the country if a new mobile phone application called Hero911 becomes widely adopted.

Hero911 is meant to reduce law enforcement response time to active shooting incidents at schools.  Schools purchase a service called SchoolGuard ($2500 setup fee and $99/mo).  Police officers voluntarily download the free Hero911 “social protection network” application.  (By the way, the phrase “social protection network” is trademarked.)

When an active shooter incident occurs, the school activates SchoolGuard (also trademarked) which immediately notifies nearby police officers, both on-duty and off-duty, of the incident.

(The Hero911 app is clearly meant to be used only by sworn police officers or “a qualified retired law enforcement officer.”  But one of the people who recommends the app on the Hero911 website — “To all sheepdogs, the Hero911™ Network can save lives, please put the app on your phone, I did.” —  is Lt Col (retired) Dave Grossman.  Grossman is a former Army Ranger, teacher, consultant, and author of On Killing, On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs, and other publications.  He does not appear to be an active or retired police officer.  One wonders how many other knowledgeable, experienced, and weapons-smart non-police officers might also “put the app on” their phone.)

———————————————

Cleary seconds count when responding to active shooter incidents and law enforcement agencies should be exploring ways to expedite that response.  But these types of incidents are extremely chaotic and the response must be conducted in a coordinated manner utilizing best practices.

Encouraging the self-dispatch of off-duty officers is potentially dangerous.

Without the ability to communicate via radio, off-duty officers are not able to receive accurate suspect/incident information or able to communicate their location to other responders.  Without a uniform or clothing identifying the individual as a police officer, the likelihood of the off-duty officer being mistaken for a suspect is real and potentially deadly.

Hero911 does briefly address these concerns – somewhat –  on their website (FAQs).  Here’s an example (my emphasis):

Officers without proper training, skill and identification should not respond, but remain vigilant after receiving the alert. ….All laws, home agency policies and protocols must be followed.

Officer safety is a major concern during these catastrophes. Please consider purchasing a well-stocked “Go-Bag” for your personal vehicle. Hats and vests with bold POLICE markings are strongly recommended.

Applications like Hero911 are well intentioned and could potentially reduce response times to active shootings by creating a direct link between school officials and nearby police officers.

However, before law enforcement agencies endorse the use of such applications, policies and training should be developed to address the self-dispatching of off-duty officers.

Additional information can be found at www.hero911.org.

———————————————

Matthew Hanley is a senior executive in a state police agency.  The views expressed in this post are Hanley’s; they do not represent the opinions of any agency or organization.

July 10, 2014

Needing your help: Core readings in homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Philip J. Palin on July 10, 2014

I have been asked to prepare a reading list for a graduate symposium in homeland security.  The purpose of the symposium (as I understand it) is to facilitate a meaningful introduction to the field by those approaching the end of graduate studies in other fields: especially law, international affairs, public administration, business, and public health.

I perceive the founders of the symposium have at least two goals: First, to provide the graduate students with sufficient grounding in homeland security that they can reasonably assess their interest in homeland security-related careers and, if interested, have a head-start in engaging and networking within homeland security.  A second goal may involve offering homeland security some non-traditional, even provocative insights emerging from this interdisciplinary consideration.

Especially given these goals the symposium does not seek to “teach” as much as “stimulate”.  The reading list should helpfully suggest major issues and trends.  It should prompt conversation and critique by soon-to-be PhDs, lawyers, and executives.  It is a foundation more than a framing.

It has not yet been finalized, but the symposium will probably meet once every 90 days for roughly six to seven hours of sustained engagement. Four sessions are anticipated.  There will be the opportunity for additional informal engagement, online and otherwise.

I have decided the reading list should be available free online.  I am inclined to give attention to the unfolding nature of homeland security law, policy, and strategy since 9/11.   I would prefer to have no more than ten core readings.  Right now I have fifteen and am tempted to list even more.

Readings that I most regret leaving off the list include the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, some of the better (and worst) Presidential Policy Directives, the OLC memorandum on “contemplated lethal operations”, Federal District Court decisions in Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, and several of the Federalist Papers at about which point I lose all restraint, the universe of reading expanding quickly into quantum and complexity theory.

What else would you insist be on the list?  What would you remove from my list without a second thought?

Potentially helpful to persuading me — and probably a subtext for the missive below — I am a product and practitioner of Higher Criticism.  The written word is sacred and mysterious, context-sensitive, layered, open to reason, enlightened by analogy, beyond full understanding while richly rewarding affirmatively critical engagement.

Thanks for your help.

March 25, 2014

Homeland Security reading list – update

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 25, 2014

The Center for Homeland Defense and Security website keeps track of the books used in its master’s degree program.  The list is updated each time a new course begins.

Here is a link to the current book list: https://www.chds.us/?hsbooks

As the screenshot below shows, you can click the link at the upper right of the web page and see the books used in each of ten courses during the past two years.  Click on each book to see the publishing information. (And, in case you are wondering, books are only part of the program’s reading requirements.)

chds reading list March 24, 2014

March 18, 2014

Five homeland security thesis abstracts

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 18, 2014

I had the opportunity this weekend to read five engaging theses, written by people who will graduate next week from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security master’s degree program.  I’m posting the thesis abstracts below.  The documents will be publicly available in about 6 weeks.  But if you are interested in seeing the thesis before then, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail dot com), and I’ll put you in touch with the author.  

1. DA VINCI’S CHILDREN TAKE FLIGHT: UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS IN THE HOMELAND

In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration will open national airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS). Nonmilitary uses for UAS range from agriculture services to entertainment purposes, and include tasks as mundane as inspecting gutters and as consequential as fighting fires.

Outside of the safety issues that accompany many breakthrough technologies, the effort to integrate UAS into national airspace is enmeshed in political, legal and economic policies that require careful navigation. Factors like cybersecurity and technological advancements will continue to influence the way UAS can be used.

This thesis provides an orientation to the key considerations in UAS integration. Policy recommendations include early stakeholder engagement; a national data protection law; no-fly zones around private residences; clearly identifying UAS operators and owners; non-lethal payloads in national airspace; adapting current surveillance laws to UAS; a single, national privacy law to facilitate the free flow of commerce and coordination across state lines; a federal office in charge of monitoring data privacy; accountability of data collectors; limited exemptions for activities conducted in the interest of national security or to protect life and property; and managing cybersecurity risks.

2. TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY STRATEGIES FOR POLICING PROTEST: WHAT MAJOR CITIES’ RESPONSES TO THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF POLICE RESPONSE TO PUBLIC PROTEST

The study of a law enforcement response to a national movement is a homeland security issue. How America polices its population establishes the benchmark for how it treats the world and is worthy of exploration. What can the experiences of four major U.S. cities, in their response to the Occupy Movement, tell us about using emergent strategies for policing protest in the twenty-first century?

In the fall of 2011, the Occupy Movement protests swept across the United States in a matter of weeks. Activists demonstrated against income inequality and the state of the economy, and they established camps in major urban areas, occupying public spaces.

I conducted case studies of New York City; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas, Texas and analyzed the results. That analysis revealed common themes, including a lack of negotiated management, restricting access to traditionally open public spaces by the police and the use of emergent practice in the complex adaptive environment of demonstrations. From this analysis, I am able to provide strategic recommendations for city and police leaders in dealing with protests in the twenty-first century utilizing a sense-making framework that will assist leaders in strategic planning for protests for large and small cities alike.

3. THE ENEMIES LIST: THE FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATION LIST AND ITS ROLE IN DEFINING TERRORISM

The United States defines terrorism through the lists it maintains identifying those who are engaged in, support, and/or facilitate terrorism. One such list is the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. Since the FTO designation process occurs without the organization’s knowledge or ability to challenge the evidence relied upon, classified information is used in making the determination, and judicial oversight is limited, concerns have been expressed that the Executive Branch has too much discretion in this process. The concerns are exacerbated by the perception that political motivations dominate the decision-making process.

Using content analysis, the FTO list is analyzed using a quantitative and qualitative approach. First, the terrorist designation processes used in allied countries is examined, and the list is analyzed reviewing FTO decisions made before and after 9/11. Through an analysis of the annual State Department country reports describing the FTOs, the non-statutory factors that influence FTO decisions emerge, and include whether a group attacked Israel or other allied nation of strategic interest to the United States, attacked the United States or its citizens, or is affiliated with al Qaeda. These non-statutory factors and their application to U.S. counterterrorism strategy, is how the United States defines terrorism at any point in time.

4. SUBSTANCE TESTING IN THE FIRE SERVICE: MAKING PUBLIC SAFETY A MATTER OF NATIONAL POLICY

The subject of this project is the state of fire service substance-testing policy nationwide, and what it should be. This thesis analyzed 12 substance-testing policies from fire departments across the country. The project looked at the language fire departments were using to convey the intent, process, and consequences of their policy. Common themes emerged as each policy was examined. However, upon closer examination, more inconsistency was found than uniformity. Differences ranged from policy purposes to prevailing guidance to types of substances tested for, threshold levels, and employee treatment; the greatest difference was found in the terminology. As a result of the analysis, this thesis identifies best practices and required components of a standardized national substance-testing policy, and asserts that such a national model should be implemented.

5. FIGHTING TOMORROW’S FIRE TODAY: LEVERAGING INTELLIGENCE FOR SCENARIO-BASED EXERCISE DESIGN

There is a great opportunity for collaborative learning when agencies conduct emergency preparedness exercises together. If different members of the community contribute to the development of these exercises, then this learning benefits the entire population. As it stands, preparedness exercises are being conducted with minimal regard to recommendations from previous exercises and real-world events. Along with the incorporation of intelligence into these exercises, the objectives should promote a more inclusive design process based on focused relevance, encouraging agencies to view themselves more as members of the greater community rather than individual entities.

Terrorist organizations learn from past failures as well as successes, and emergency responders should strive to parallel this learning in order to develop tactical improvements. Emergency responders need to promote the idea of intelligence-driven exercise design in order to support community resilience through collaborative training. Municipalities should spearhead this effort, supported financially by the private sector. With this fusion of intelligence and collaborative exercise design, we can learn from the fires of yesterday and prepare for the emergencies of tomorrow.

March 5, 2014

A Video Library from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2014

In this quiet space between the end of Downton Abbey and baseball’s opening day, it may be worth your time to peruse the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s video library on YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/user/npsCHDS

It is a treasure trove of homeland security education, containing everything from lectures to faculty media appearances to discussions with students about their thesis work.

Among the jems is the video based on Chris’ blog post from last year “Lilacs out of the dead land: 9 lessons to be learned from last week.”

 

 

Another is a discussion with Cynthia Renaud about her thesis “Making Sense at the Edge of Chaos: A Framework for Effective Initial Response Efforts to Large-Scale Incidents.”

 

Enjoy.

January 30, 2014

The mitigation message

East Rivers Elementary

Cobb County elementary school children sleeping Tuesday night in the gym

Last Tuesday my train pulled into Union Station, Washington DC, shortly before noon.  The station and surrounding city were unusually quiet.  The Federal Office of Personnel Management had given most of its employees liberal leave to stay home.   Most area schools followed this lead.

On Capitol Hill — where I still had some meetings — the snow did not really begin until about 2:00 and was not quite as bad as predicted even into the height of the typical rush hour, which given the OPM decision had much more rush than usual.

By the next morning there was nearly 4 inches of snow at Reagan Airport and over 8 at Dulles.  Wednesday got underway with official delays.

Still some were inclined to second-guess the Tuesday mitigation decision made with the best possible information Monday night.

I hope the second-guessers are giving close attention to the more recent news out of Atlanta.

Even at dawn Tuesday, January 28 the best information available to Georgia decision-makers — very much including the general public — was that the worst weather would track south and east of Atlanta.  Beginning between about 7 and 8 that morning the best information began to shift.  By 10 it was snowing in Bartow County on the northwestern edge of metro Atlanta.  By 11 it was snowing hard and icing.  At 11:23 Cobb County Schools (along the Northwest Atlanta beltway) closed and began busing students home.  At 12:15 Georgia DOT suggested private-sector workers head home.

By 1:00 many Atlanta highways were grid-locked, more the result of sudden volume than — yet — because of the weather.  (Should bring back unpleasant memories of similar events in Chicago and DC in recent years.)  As some of you know, traffic is not an unusual problem in Atlanta, even in fragrant and sunny springtime.

At 1:55 the Governor declared a State of Emergency; the most immediate effect being to pour state employees onto already packed roads.  Across the United States we are predisposed to evacuations.  It is a bad — sometimes, someplaces deadly — habit.

By mid-afternoon the snow and especially ice were adding to the problems.  You have probably seen the videos.  There were several hundred vehicle accidents just in the Atlanta area.

On Wednesday many Tuesday afternoon commuters were still stuck in their cars.  Some had abandoned their vehicles.  In several cases school buses were forced to retreat back to classrooms.  Several hundred children — the numbers are still unclear — spent the night in their schools. (See picture above.) My ten-year-old nephew got home from school, but neither of his parents could.  Shane spent the night at the neighbors.

There will be after-action analyses. There will be studies.  There will be hearings.  There will be blame-gaming. There will be lessons-learned.

What I hope someone will declare clearly and well is that 1) there are many things we cannot accurately predict, 2) especially in unpredictable contexts innate vulnerabilities are exposed, and 3) in densely networked environments, like cities, these vulnerabilities can sometimes meet and mate, propagating suddenly and prolifically.

So… for a whole host of risks we are wise to invest in mitigation and to keep in mind that what will always seem an over-investment before will likely pay profitable dividends after.

This principle applies well beyond the weather, including water systems, supply chains, fuel networks, bridges, and much, much more.

November 12, 2013

How Australians are encouraged to learn first aid

Filed under: Education,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on November 12, 2013

How do you get people to pay attention to preparedness?

Here’s how the Australian Red Cross is trying to get people to learn first aid.

The first video is 1:27. The second one is 2:04. (You might not want to watch the second one if you’re eating.)

And yes, that’s really what Australians sound like.

 

January 8, 2013

Some recent homeland security theses

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on January 8, 2013

On December 14th, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 41st and 42nd master’s degree class.

The titles of their theses, below, suggest the ideas explored by the graduates.

Most of the theses — adding to the storehouse of what we know, do not know, and might know about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in 4 to 6 weeks.

(If you know of any other recent master’s or doctoral theses related to homeland security policy and strategy, please let us know – – along with enough information to find the documents.)

-+-

• Analysis of Terrorist Funding and Strategic Capability.

• Assessing Fire Service Use of Automatic Aid as a Response Model.

• Aviation Security: Biometric Technology and Risk-based Security Aviation Passenger Screening.

• Border Law Enforcement – From a Dystopian Lens.

• Collaborative Radiological Response Planning.

• Combating Terrorism Within Local Policing Through Crime Reduction: Using Real Time Situational Awareness with a Distributed Common Operating Picture to Combat All Crime and Terrorism.

• Common Ground: Partnerships for Public Health and Medical System Resilience.

• Creating Defensible Cyberspace: The Value of Applying Place-Based Crime Prevention Strategy to Social Media.

• Domestic Intelligence: When Is It Acceptable?

• Enhancing Decision Making During Initial Operations at Surge Events.

• Enhancing Situational Awareness When Addressing Critical Incidents at Schools.

• Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Field Intelligence Collection and Process Efforts with a Systems Thinking Leadership Strategy.

• How Do We Hedge the Homeland Security Risk? Let’s Talk Return on Investment.

• Improving TSA’s Public Image: Customer Focused Initiatives to Improve Public Trust and Confidence.

• Improvised Explosives and Related Chemical Precursors: Strategies to Identify the Threat and Protect Our First Responders.

La Guerra: The Contest to Define Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations in the Homeland Security Problem Space.

• New Technologies and Emerging Threats: Personal Security Adjudicative Guidelines in the Age of Social Networking.

• Preparing Minority Populations for Emergencies: Connecting to Build a More Resilient Community.

• Purposefully Manufactured Vulnerabilities in U.S. Government Technology Microchips: Risks and Homeland Security Implications.

• Putting the Critical Back in Critical Infrastructure.

• Rethinking Disasters: Finding Efficiencies Through Collaboration.

• Revisiting the Swine Flu Affair: Recognizing a Non-linear Homeland Security Environment for Improved Decision Making.

• Southwest Hispanic Community – The Absence of Homeland Security Threats.

• Suicide Terrorism in America? The Complex Social Conditions of this Phenomenon and the Implications for Homeland Security.

• The Emerging Domestic Threat: What the Law Enforcement Community Must Know and Prepare for In Regard to the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

• The FBI Counter Terrorism Division Global Initiative: Enhancing the Legal Attaché Program.

• The Homeland Security Ecosystem: An Analysis of Hierarchical and Ecosystem Models and Their Influence on Decision Makers.

• The North American Proliferation of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations: Homeland Security Implications of the Hybrid Threat.

• Voice of America 2.0: A Study of the Integrated Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Strategy and its Application to the United States Counterterrorism Strategic Plan.

November 20, 2012

Wanted: Dangerous Homeland Security ideas. $500 reward.

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on November 20, 2012

Do you have a dangerous idea about homeland security?

Why is it dangerous?

You could receive $500 if you write a compelling response to those questions.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security is running its sixth annual essay contest through January 20th, 2013. You can see the contest rules and the essay evaluation criteria at http://www.chds.us/?essay/overview.

The contest is open to anyone interested in homeland security — anyone except for Center for Homeland Defense and Security faculty, staff, students and graduates.

The winning essay will be announced around May 31, 2013.

Here are the essay questions from previous years:

2008 — “What single aspect of Homeland Security has been most successful, and what single aspect will be most critical to Homeland Security success?”

2009 — “What advice concerning Homeland Security would you give the next presidential administration and why?”

2010 — “How can, or should, the United States make homeland security a more layered, networked, and resilient endeavor involving all citizens?”

2011 — “Claude Debussy said “Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” How might this idea be applied to how we approach homeland defense and security?”

2012 — “Identify a theory or insight from a field outside homeland security that has not been applied to homeland security but should be.”

You can see the finalists’ essays for those questions at this link.

September 25, 2012

Growing more homeland security ideas

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 25, 2012

On September 21st, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 39th and 40th master’s degree class.

To suggest the ideas explored by those graduates, here are the titles of their theses.

Most of the theses — adding to the storehouse of what we know, do not know, and might know about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in a few weeks.

(If you know of any other recent master’s or doctoral theses related to homeland security policy and strategy, please let us know – - along with enough information to find the documents.)

——

  • Leveraging National Guard Intelligence: Analysts in State and Regional Fusion Centers
  • The Future Mission, Tasking and Resourcing of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • The FBI is Leading the Way by Making the Private Sector Part of the Counterterrorism Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Policy Options to Address Crucial Communication Gaps in the Incident Command System
  • Utilizing Social Media to Further the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative
  • Federated Search Tools in Fusion Centers: Bridging Databases in the Information Sharing Environment
  • Creating a Learning Organization for State and Local Law Enforcement to Combat Violent Extremism
  • Start Making Sense: Exploring an Emergency Learning Framework
  • Evolving the Local Fire Service intelligence Enterprise in New York State: Implementing a Threat Liaison Officer Program
  • Shaping the National Guard in a Post War Environment
  • Effective Municipal Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs
  • FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams: Considering an Improved Strategy for an Evolving Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Internet Radicalization: Actual Threat or Phantom Menace?
  • Incomplete Intelligence: Is the Information Sharing Environment an Effective Platform?
  • Ready for the Future: Assessing the Collaborative Capacity of State Emergency Management Agencies
  • Unity of Command for the Federal Operational Response to a Catastrophic Disaster
  • Social Media, Social Networking, Facial Recognition Technology and the Future of Law Enforcement Undercover Operations
  • Emergent Social Software Platforms for Sharing and Collaboration on Criminal Information and Intelligence
  • The Provision of Public Health Services for Illegal Migrant Populations: Policy Options for Improving Homeland Security
  • Applying Deterrence Strategy to Agents of Asymmetrical Threats
  • What is the Best Approach to Crisis Intervention?
  • Hunting a Black Swan: Policy Options for America’s Police in Preventing Radiological/Nuclear Terrorism
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Where Do We Go from Here to Bring the Fire Service into the Domestic Intelligence Community?
  • Violent Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations in Texas: Political Discourse and an Argument for Reality
  • Understanding “Swift Trust” to Improve Interagency Collaboration in New York City
  • Theory to Practice: How Developing a K-12 Curriculum in Emergency Preparedness, Life Safety, or Homeland Security can lead to Resiliency
  • Community Engagement for Collective Resilience: The Rising System
  • Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into Modern Policing in an Urban Environment
  • Network Vulnerability Assessment of the U.S. Crude Pipeline Infrastructure

September 4, 2012

Badges? In a homeland security education future, your kids might actually want some stinkin’ badges.

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 4, 2012

This week’s post is an excuse to share a video a friend showed me a few days ago. (Thanks RNG.) But since this is a homeland security blog, I want to first make the connection between the video and homeland security.

Last week I had the chance to talk with homeland security educators from around North America. I came away from the conversation thinking about three issues: jobs, curriculum, and the costs of education.

Jobs was the big issue. Depending on what counts as homeland security higher education, there are between 200 and 400 programs across the nation. Where are the graduates of these programs going to find jobs? That was the number one question being asked.

There were very not many answers. A few programs (one of which I will mention later) did not have a significant problem finding jobs for its graduates. But those programs were the exceptions.

—————————————–

The second issue was what to teach in a homeland security program. This issue is as old as homeland security. So that means not very old if you are in the “homeland security started after 9/11/01″ camp. Or really old if you’re part of the “we’ve always done homeland security” tribe.

The curriculum answer is often arrived at through vigorous assertion, sometimes supported by focus groups (as if focus groups are representative of anything other than the interests in the room); sometimes by more systematic analysis: for instance here and here.

According to the people in the room, employers know what skills they want from the people they hire: critical thinking, the ability to collaborate, the ability to communicate effectively. Knowledge about specific homeland security skills — whatever they might be — was not emphasized, at least not in the conversations I heard.

I don’t know how much critical thinking employers actually want in the public sector, or the private sector for that a matter. But I don’t know the data either way on this topic.

I am reminded, however, how organizations can conduct a nationwide search to try to get the very best person available. Once that person his hired, he or she has to then fit in with the rest of the people. Maybe not all the time. But enough.

“It’s path dependency,” a smart friend explained to me today.

In my opinion, there is no consensus on what should be included in homeland security curriculum. I think we are still in 100 flower territory.

Before too long the 100 flowers may fragment into 1000 flowers. And that could be a good thing for homeland security education and for homeland security. That leads to a third issue: money.

—————————————–

The third issue that came up was the cost of education. The “total outstanding student loan debt in the United States now stands at above $1 trillion dollars.”

I find it interesting the student loan figure runs parallel to Mueller and Stewart’s finding that “the increase in expenditures on domestic homeland security over the decade exceeds $1 trillion.”

No doubt just a coincidence.

But I don’t know anyone who knows what a trillion dollar really means. So I suppose the best one can say is a lot of money was spent on homeland security during it’s first decade. And students owe a lot of money for going to college.

What the nation received for the trillion dollars in homeland security spending remains an open question. Apparently it’s even harder to figure out what college students got for the trillion dollars they borrowed.

—————————————–

One person I heard speak is working at a new edge of homeland security education. It’s an edge where badges (sometimes called certificates) are more valued than degrees.

His program (the name is not important for the point I’m making) is not concerned about granting degrees. Instead, his organization trains/educates (discussing the distinction would add several hundred more words to the post) people to be intelligence analysts. The students in that program graduate with demonstrated competence in a skill certain employers want. They don’t end up with a degree. But they do get hired.

Badges/certificates are not especially new. Computer professionals and emergency managers, among others, have been collecting badges for decades. But the looming rupture of the student loan bubble portends an opportunity for the “Badges not Degrees” movement.

If the badges trend grows, what might the future of homeland security education look like?

—————————————–

That’s a very long way to get to what I actually wanted to write about.

Here’s a link to a ten minute video introducing a quasi-science fiction concept called EPIC 2020. (There’s a longer video on the page, but the first one gets the main idea across.)

If you’re interested in where education, curriculum and assessment might be going, the ten minute video is worth your time.

Maybe some of the concepts are fanciful (e.g., Apple buys Amazon, and Google buys the Khan Academy). Other ideas, like the student loan bubble, are a disturbing reality. Still other parts of the trend are happing now (a Stanford professor taught one course to 160,000 students from all over the world; that’s more students than most faculty teach in a lifetime).

The badges approach is not without downsides. But the current approaches to homeland security education — to higher education in general — also has its problems.

(Caution: very long sentence with unconventional spacing coming up. )

What could it mean for homeland security education
if we moved toward a future where a degree in homeland security
(or in any of the dozens of disciplines and professions related to it)
did not matter as much as a badge that certifies a potential employee demonstrated competence
in one of the higher level skills homeland security employers want:
collaboration, being comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, measurement, mash ups, social networking, resilience…
who knows what else?
—————————————–

I don’t know how many people are entering homeland security higher education programs this fall.

But I’m guessing the jobs the best of those students will be competing for when they graduate haven’t been invented yet.

That is an interesting curriculum design problem.

April 24, 2012

Cybersecurity Awareness and Capacity Building: Some learning objectives

Filed under: Cybersecurity,Education — by Christopher Bellavita on April 24, 2012

Sunday and Monday’s Homeland Security Watch posts reminded me how little I know about cyber fill-in-the-blank issues.  I know more than I did a year ago. But every time I hear or read something from someone who actually understand cyber issues, what I believe I know becomes a much smaller fraction of what I think I could know.

This week’s posts also reminded my of a “cyber awareness” course syllabus a friend sent to me last June when I was trying to make sense of the cyber domain.  The best I can figure out, the 20 page syllabus came from someone named “Paul Herman” at Florida State University.  I have not been able to verify that.

I bring this up for two reasons.

First, this is cyber week on homeland security watch, and I agreed to write something about cyber, severely underestimating how much time it would take to write something coherent about Susan Brenner’s 2009 reminder that “Article I § 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the “Power To . . . grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal,” and how we might want to consider using that Constitutional authority to encourage “cyber-privateers to deal with cybercriminals.” (See also this related entry on the Morgan Doctrine blog; [and thanks for the idea, KS].)

Second, when I first saw “Paul Herman’s course syllabus” I remember being impressed with how much territory it covered, and how it actually included “learning objectives.”

The syllabus helped me map my own preliminary cyber learning agenda.  I pass a very small portion of it (topics and learning objectives) along today, with the hope it might help someone develop his or her own agenda for learning about (or maybe teaching) this still emerging homeland security issue.

Thank you, “Paul Herman,” whoever you are.

——————

Module 1: The Importance of Cyberspace

Much like globalization writ large, those states and societies that catch the cyberspace bus will tend to move forward, while those that miss it will tend to be left behind.

Learning Objectives:
When you complete this module you should be able to:
• Define Cyberspace and Cybersecurity
• Recognize the centrality of cyberspace to contemporary life
• Recognize the inherent vulnerabilities of utilizing cyberspace
• Differentiate the key sub-dimensions within the overall cybersecurity subject area

Module 2: Invasion of Personal Privacy

Increasingly, individuals’ confidential records and affiliations are stored or expressed on the Internet.

Learning Objectives:
• List the types of personal data that are increasingly connected to the Internet
• Comprehend the visibility of many personal behaviors on the Internet
• Conclude that this type of personal exposure entails risks to individuals

Module 3: Sexual Exploitation / Predation

The Internet lends itself to taking advantage of the physically and emotionally most vulnerable members of society.

Learning Objectives:
• Evaluate the impact on children of their forcible sexual depiction
• Evaluate the impact on women’s status in society
• Analyze the potential for predatory actors on the Internet to misrepresent themselves and lure other gullible participants into dangerous rendezvouses and relationships

Module 4: Disgruntled Insiders

Severe damage is arguably more likely to be done to your organization by persons who legitimately belong there than by external hackers.

Learning Objectives:
• Determine if unhappy employees in an organization are prone to stealing or destroying information assets as a type of revenge or justice seeking
• Determine if unhappy employees in a factory or supply chain are susceptible to being recruited to alter or degrade information and communication technology (ICT) products
• Assess the implications of the … WikiLeaks case

Module 5: Personal Financial Theft

The heist of digitized currency is probably the most prevalent cybercrime in the world.

Learning Objectives:
• Recognize the ease and frequency with which credit card numbers are stolen
• Recognize the susceptibility of financial data, including bank accounts, to being stolen
• Discover that stolen financial account data is sometimes sold to other criminals, or used to blackmail / extort victimized institutions.

Module 6: Corporate Espionage

Building competitive, innovative economies – aided by theft if need be – is probably more conducive to national security than is amassing armaments.

Learning Objectives:
• Estimate the magnitude of the value of stolen Intellectual Property (IP)
• Identify the different types of actors involved in stealing IP
• Explore the potential for commercial competitors to try to ruin one another’s reputation
• Assess the implications of a recent high-vis corporate penetration

Module 7: Violent Extremist Collaboration

Violent extremists bolster one another in cyberspace and exchange tricks of the trade.

Learning Objectives:
• Recognize how extremist groups and individuals can use cyberspace to incite violent impulses
• Recognize the availability of weapon and explosive device designs on the Internet
• Recognize group tactic sharing and operational attack planning on the Internet

Module 8: Critical Infrastructure Disruption

For ease of operation, many of the services citizens count on – utilities/energy, transportation, and financial markets – are increasingly accessible from the Internet.

Learning Objectives:
• List critical infrastructures
• Explain control systems, and illustrate their importance via the recent Stuxnet case
• Interrelate critical infrastructures and how failure in one might cascade

Module 9: National Security Espionage

In the U.S. case, Pentagon and State Department computer systems are probed thousands of times daily.

Learning Objectives:
• Recognize that the Internet provides nation-states and their intelligence agencies with vastly expanded capabilities to furtively acquire information.
• State some of the military and diplomatic advantages that would come from effective espionage.

Module 10: Information Operations / Cyber War

Cyber war is a force multiplier that developing nations will increasingly want to take account of.

Learning Objectives:
• Recognize that information operations can interfere with critical infrastructure, which is the logistical mechanism for mobilizing in a crisis
• Recognize that degraded targeting data make smart bombs dumb
• Observe that small nation-states are often the target of information operations during a confrontation (as illustrated by Estonia and Georgia opposite Russia in 2007 and 2008, respectively)

Module 11: Summary Patterns

This is a bigger problem than most people realize. Critical infrastructure is increasingly regulated in cyberspace, and such infrastructure is essential for an effective response to any emergency – natural or manmade.

Learning Objectives:
• Deduce or recall examples of how the aforementioned subdivisions of cyber security are nested or interrelated.
• Explain how cyber insecurity can have systemic – economic and/or political – effects
• Recognize that even developing states are not insulated from high-tech cyber concerns

Module 12: Technical Digression

…[It] must be realized that at bottom line, cyber security is heavily a function of computer science / network administration.

Learning Objectives:
• Describe how the leading types of malicious software (malware) work
• Describe the leading techniques exploiters use to trick Internet users.
• Identify several information technology (IT) best practices that aim to blunt computer exploitation

Module 13: A Policy Framework for Cyber Security

While governments alone cannot ensure cybersecurity, they can put in place a policy framework that facilitates it.

Learning Objectives:
• Articulate a case for states to formulate a national cyber strategy
• Explain the connection between legislated authorities and regulatory activities
• List key national cybersecurity institutions
• Identify sources of international / multilateral support

Module 14: A Culture of Cybersecurity

Societal features external to government IT programs contribute to a broad milieu of cyber safety.

Learning Objectives:
• Assess the adequacy of national science and technology (S&T) education
• Examine the adequacy of national business culture for fully incorporating cyber vulnerability into risk management formula
• Comprehend the need for civil society bodies to credential properly trained information security professionals

February 6, 2012

Disaster Tourism

Filed under: Catastrophes,Education,Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Arnold Bogis on February 6, 2012

The Boston Globe recently ran a very interesting, if short, editorial on the benefits of disaster tourism:

The residents of Joplin, Missouri suffered unspeakable tragedy when the May, 2011, tornado left the small city in ruins and 161 people dead. Today, Joplin is in the midst of a new crisis as city leaders, under fire, backed down from proposals to market the devastation and recovery as “tornado tourism.’’ While every effort should be made to respect the solemn nature of Joplin’s history, the city should reconsider: Disaster tourism is a natural part of any tragedy that engages, and sometimes enrages, a nation.

An interesting perspective I hadn’t thought of before.  Usually, such activities are easily cast as predatory or manipulative.  However, the editors of the Globe make the good point that disasters are learning experiences, not just for those directly impacted but for society in general.  For every person who goes and tours a former disaster site, a few might go home and perhaps not only prepare for the unthinkable themselves, but share that message with others.

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